The 'Palin Effect?' Not in Murkowski's Alaska Senate Primary

Sarah Palin's endorsements bring media and donors, but do they bring voters? I'm not so sure.

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There's a lot of talk today about "the Palin effect" in the wake of yesterday's primaries, especially in the Alaska GOP Senate race. Joe Miller, who had been endorsed by Sarah Palin, came from behind and is leading incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski. (The two are within 3 percentage points of each other, but thousands of absentee votes are still being counted.) 

The Washington Post's headline today reports that "Joe Miller's primary showing reveals Sarah Palin's continuing sway over Alaska." Palin's endorsement "made it clear to the entire country that she still exercises great influence in her home state," clearly boosting turnout for Miller, the Post reports.

Not so fast. Politico is reporting that only 90,000 people voted in the Senate race—but 131,000 votes were cast for or against a parental notification proposal for teens wanting an abortion, which appeared on the same ballot. Miller believes the ballot question, called Measure 2, had a big effect on his race:

Miller told Politico that voters who approved the ballot measure likely supported his campaign. Although both Miller and Murkowski said they supported Measure 2, Murkowski is one of the few Republicans in the Senate who generally supports legislation supporting abortion rights—a point that Miller drove home in some of his last-minute advertisements.

"Proposition 2 was aligned with our campaign in the sense that the value voters ... are also the same type of people who would be supporting our campaign," Miller said.

In a Republican primary, having a parental notification question on the ballot could easily drive turnout, especially if one of the candidates is prolife and the other is prochoice. And while Palin's endorsement may have brought media attention and money to Miller's candidacy, I'm not sure it drove actual turnout as much as that ballot measure did. Alaska's abortion rate is rising, and 20 percent of abortions in the state are performed on teens. I think that would motivate parents to vote more than any endorsement.

It's an interesting question: are people supporting certain candidates because Palin endorses them, or are the "same type of people" who turn out for those candidates doing so whether she gets involved or not? Her endorsements bring media and donors, but do they bring voters? I'm not so sure.

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